Natchez Festival of Music kicks off Sunday

Published 6:18 pm Friday, May 21, 2021

About six years ago, I suggested to my husband Alan that we should buy a second home for hurricane evacuation purposes within a drivable distance from New Orleans where we lived, but far enough away to avoid the worst effects of storms, and Natchez seemed like a place to start looking although we knew nothing about the town.

So I called a friend who had relocated to Natchez from the Gulf coast after Hurricane Katrina and asked him, “What’s Natchez like?”  His reply, “Wonderful.”

It didn’t take us long to discover that his assessment was right on.

Our first discovery was the friendliness of the people here and their generosity.  Then we learned about all the special events organized and supported by Natchezians: the literary festival, a funky Mardi Gras parade and the larger Mardi Gras krewes’ festivities, Angels on the Bluff, an antiques forum, the balloon festival, the Festival of Music and more.

Unfortunately, last year all were either canceled, postponed or reconfigured by the COVID crisis. But now, with vaccinations and safety protocols, these special events are returning.

As I write this, I am anticipating the Sunday, May 23, opening concert of the Festival of Music’s 31st year, an amazing accomplishment.

The Festival was organized in 1990 by opera lovers with the goal of presenting an opera every year, which it did through 2019. And over the years the Festival broadened its offerings to performances of popular music, Americana, jazz, and Broadway musicals to appeal to all music lovers.

This season, because of the pandemic, will be a little different but just as appealing. 

An opera and musical will have to wait until next year but this year’s Festival season, entitled “String of Pearls,” is offering eight concerts over five weeks featuring a variety of superb performances

But back to the opening concert.  At Trinity Episcopal Church Sunday night, May 23, at 7 p.m. vocalist Stacey Trenteseaux and pianist Zhaolei Xie will present a selection of favorite arias, musical theater tunes and art songs in a program entitled “Moonlight and Magic.”

These talented musicians received their early training in Mississippi and Louisiana and have performed throughout  the world.  We are lucky to have them for the Festival.

And Stacey and Zhaolei are not the only accomplished artists in concert this year. Acclaimed pianist Jonathan Levin returns to the Festival June 5. And on June 18, former Festival artistic director Jay Dean will present a program with the Natchez Festival of Music Chamber Orchestra and singers of musical favorites from the Festival’s past 30 years.

More classical offerings include performances by The Diamond Trio, May 28, and the Lagniappe Trio, June 9.

Willie Nelson fans won’t want to miss “Luckenbach,” by the Willie Nelson Tribute Band at the Natchez Community Center June 25. 

Jazz lovers, the Festival didn’t forget you! Trumpeter Kimble Funchess channels Louie Armstrong in “Satchmo!” June 11.

And on June 27th another great jazz icon will be honored with “Dave Brubeck’s Take Five.”

Information about these amazing eight concerts and ticketing can be found on natchezfestivalofmusic.com.

Now you can see what makes the Festival of Music so thrilling and so unique.

Natchez, a small but wonderful city, is blessed with so many music lovers that this Festival continues to enhance and grow its cultural identity. An amazing accomplishment indeed!

And that is one of the reasons why my husband and I now call Natchez our “first,” and primary, home.

Elizabeth Wolf is a Natchez resident.